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Chapter 14
A Case Study
Some years ago, I had the opportunity to apply Deming’s principles with a
free hand. One of the manufacturing departments at the plant where I was
working had undergone a multimillion-dollar “upgrade” but would not per-
form. The upgrade was intended to increase capacity, but the process ran so
badly after the project was completed that output was considerably less than
before. I was given the assignment to get the department running and due
to the urgency was told to do whatever was necessary to make it happen.
While I was initially flattered that management would place that kind
of trust in my abilities, I was also terrified because that department was in
terrible shape. Anyone casually walking through it could see that it was not
actually “running.” None of its five production lines ran continuously. It was
more a series of starts and stops. Quality was terrible, and there were fre-
quent injuries as people rushed around doing their best to try to keep the
lines running.
I felt sure this operation could be turned around, but the situation was
dire. The department had an operating budget in today’s dollars of about
$10 million per month. Compared to standards, it was losing over a million
dollars per month. It was daunting, to say the least. Fortunately, I had just
been through the Deming videotape series, and it was fresh in my mind, so
I at least had a road map. But, did I have the time to put it in place?
The department began each day with a morning meeting. Initially, ours
were all about the same—a rehash of what had broken down the day
before. I repeatedly asked why we had all the breakdowns and eventually
got to the truth. To “save money,” maintenance had been neglected for years,
which explained why everyone in the department was so demoralized.

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